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Samsung backside-bitten by emoticon patent trollery

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Samsung’s patent lawsuit against Apple over emoticons has bitten the smartphone maker in the behind, with a patent troll hoarder called Varia now suing Samsung over the same thing.

At the bottom of it all is our relentless pursuit of the laziest possible way to carry out the most mundane activities. Since emoticons are intolerably tedious to type, a screen prompt to “insert smiley” is indispensable.

So far, so good: but someone in the US Patent Office saw fit – I’m not joking here – to grant a patent for the business of popping up a list of emoticons on the smartphone screen as a user convenience. That patent was granted to Samsung, which is using it as a skirmishing-front in its ongoing war with Apple.

However, the new lawsuit filed by Varia states that Samsung has based its case against Cupertino on an infringing patent – and Varia is the hoarder that owns the patent Samsung is infringing.

In papers filed in the US District Court (NY southern district) and posted to Docstock, Varia says US Patent 7,167,731, Emoticon Input Method and Apparatus predates the patent Samsung holds, and is infringed by Samsung.

“The ‘731 patent covers a mobile communication device having an input key that, when pressed by the user while in text mode, results in the display of a list of emoticons for selection by the user,” the complaint states.

“Samsung is presently a party to a patent infringement action with Apple in which it is asserting US Patent No. 7,835,729 … therefore … Samsung has recognized the value of the type of invention embodied in the ‘731 patent”.

It is, in a way, delicious. Samsung’s best defence would probably be to have the patent voided on the basis that the “insert smiley” function is too obvious to warrant a patent. That, however, would unload one of the guns Samsung hopes to fire at Apple. ®

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